In a Sunday morning comment, Robert Scheiffer correctly stated that we would solve our debt ceiling stand-off when enough members of Congress had the courage to rise above the demands of ideological movements and interest groups they relied on for political and financial support in getting elected and remaining in office.  In addition to this kind of courage, however, those same members of Congress have to have a sense of the national interest that is bigger than the Tea Party or any similar demand group.

A large part of the reason these members of Congress have no courage is they cannot see a bigger cause than the narrow causes to whom they traded their integrity for votes and dollars.  There is an identifiable national interest that is greater than all the Tea Parties, Wall Street financial powers, AARPs, defense contractors, mindless anti-tax lobbying groups, and every other interest rolled into one.  That national interest is simply what is best for the country today and in the future.

There is a huge consensus that we cannot operate on debt and deficit forever.  We don’t need the Tea Party to tell us that.  But I would guess that a majority of Tea Party members receive either Social Security or Medicare, or both, and don’t believe their “cuts in spending” include them.  Achieving that consensus isn’t the problem.  But financial stability cannot be restored without additional revenues.  Everyone but the Tea Party–and that includes Republican “leaders”–knows that.  They simply do not have the courage to tell their constituents that, which is Mr. Scheiffer’s point.

It would help a great deal if the President, editorial writers, leading business people, educators, historians, and former elected officials all stood up to define the national interest.  I was told years ago by a U.S. Senator that national security required a sound dollar, secure borders (against hostile invasion), and the confidence of the people in their government.  I would add to that a society in which we all cared about each other as fellow Americans.  Right now we have none of these.

8 Responses to “Courage and the National Interest”

  1. Jeffrey Abelson Says:

    Until the critical influence-shapers you call upon stand up and tell us, the people, that politics as usual is no longer capable of addressing what ails us — because it will never find the courage to reform itself unless passive citizens make their voices heard in an effective and continuous way — and in so doing neuter the currently dominant voices of extremists and lobbyists — until ordinary Americans acknowledge their democratic need to take their jobs as citizens more seriously — and do so — there is zero chance of our situation improving. Unless we’re bombed of course, or otherwise forced (temporarily) to band together. I wish that I were wrong, but all the evidence unfortunately says that I’m not.

  2. MinerSam Says:

    fuddy shmudy. Just nip it in the butt, i.e. the Republican Murdoch-Limbough Lie Machine that is brainwashing Tens of millions by repeating the same old
    lies. Lies like:

    1)When Government spends it “Crowds out the private Sector” or that

    2)”That Obama has not presented a budget in 24Months” (Lie, presents one every February, but the Republicans voted on their own which privatizes Medicare & reducing taxes for the rich whiel Seniors pay thousands more.

    3)Also pretending to be fyscally responsible and the lie that Obama quadruppled the debt When in FACT The Republicans wracked up 87% of the
    debt and all Obama did was put Trillions in Republican Off ballance Sheet
    debt back into the Budget!!

    4)That the Stimulous didn’t work. Oh Ye? As Wall St. When the Stimulous
    passed the Stock Market stopped goign down, turned around and went from
    63,000 to 12,400 and hasn’t looked back. During a time when Confidence has
    been critical it’s Republicans lies and behaviour that created uncertainty.

    4B)That the stimulous totalled a trillion dollars. No, $745B (less than the 2 year the President extended the bush tax cuts for the rich the last time Reps held our country hostage. 350B of the stimulour was Small Business and\
    Middle Class Tax cuts as the President promised

    Yes, the Republicans would have to have the courage to tell the Koch Brothers and other criminal Good Bye. But are not about to do this and
    niether are their supreme court appointees.

    Give me a Break

  3. Nancy Lee Says:

    So, how do we get these Republicans that took that “no tax” pledge from Grover Norquist to realize that pledges are foolish in the long run? That the good of the country comes before some gimmicky pledge? And that Grover Norquist might run the Republican party but nobody elected him to run this country.

  4. Forest Book Says:

    You are correct Mr. Hart, we have scant few, or none of the characteristics a healthful culture, for a few reasons: 1. The cult of leadership. How can Democracy survive when it creates a society chock-o-block with “leaders.” Virtually all self serving. In such a mindset, what becomes of the “we”? Or the power of the masses; or the healthy Democracy of the Majority? 2. Comfort is a powerful, addictive miasma with numbing effects. Debt and waste are the commodities from such an economic model. Comfort replaces courage with the fear to confront anything unpleasant in any meaningful way. “Let the leader deal with that?” 3. It is pitiable when our national debate has become focused on what our national commodity has become: debt. Not the character qualities that were supposed to be found in all these leaders. We are not discussing nurturing our national qualities, debt demands we cut them. If the cult of leadership is so great, why is our nation so willing to be in free fall towards the abyss? We must be mindful and ever diligent of the warning signs of the opportunities fascism will exploit, and ultimately be empowered by. We can not apologize for the unpleasantness of such truths.

  5. Sam Kepfield Says:

    Exactly. The two parties are so intent on playing their base that they ignore the big picture. Democrats need to agree to some entitlement reform, and Republicans need to agreed to end some tax breaks that let GE (profits in 2010 — $5 Billion) pay nothing and let more than a few high-income earners pay no taxes. And you’re right, Senator, about the Tea Party; Matt Taibi did a piece in Rolling Stone about a Tea Party rally where a fair percentage of the participants were getting some kind of government aid. And that’s not even mentioning the Defense budget, which is nothing more than a high-tech welfare program for the defense manufacturers.

    I love reading your blogs; my earliest political campaign was in 1984, where I was a Hart delegate in the Kansas caucuses.

  6. Debbie Lackowitz Says:

    It does all come down to our national interest. It always HAS. Prior to Grover Norquist and the Tea Parties, the national interest at most points was served. But he (and they as well) have an agenda, make NO mistake about that. Make government small enough to ‘drown in a bathtub’ ring a bell? They don’t realize (or conveniently forget) what government actually DOES for them. Is it perfect? No. Of course not! Waste and fraud? Sure. It’s there. But tell me something. People of Joplin? You were decimated by tornadoes. The FIRST thing President Obama did was offer Federal Aid to help re-build. See? THAT’s what government is ALL about. Oh. And another ‘sticky’ point. Ahem. Does THIS make you any more aware that global warming is REAL and NOT a hoax? Hope so. So in essence, if you want ‘problems solved’ then what we need is for government to REALLY work. On a smaller, more efficient scale? I’ll go for that. Do we need to ‘downsize’? Yeah, to a point. But NOT the safety net that’s work so well for so long. There are ways to cut (you KNOW they’re there!). In fact, you don’t even have to be ‘creative’. Just take a real look. Without partisan ‘blinders’ (goes for both sides). Tax the rich? GET TO IT! Agriculture ‘subsidies’? For who? Michelle Bachman? Oil subsidies? For who? The Koch brothers? Get my point?

  7. Jim Engelking Says:

    Thanks for starting a constructive conversation on this essential topic, Gary. I agree with Jeffrey that only we, the people who make up these United States of America, can reform our nation, and raise our public discourse, so that we are listening to each other again. Viewing each other as fellow citizens. Requiring our elected officials to work together to solve not only the crisis of the day but our long term problems.

    Our politicians are not capable of doing it. They are beholden to the moneyed interests who control banking and media. Before it was too late, before the corrupt influences could take him hostage, Barack Obama made the decision to run for President, and we as a a nation had new hope for change. That was too much a threat to those who really run the country, so their minions began doing everything they could to destroy his Presidency. And we the people have let them do it.

    When our leaders lack courage to change, can we supply it?

  8. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Senator Hart, as always it is a pleasure, albeit a painful one, to read your insightful comments. Your point is well stated and well taken. Both Mr. Abelson and Mr. Engelking make sound comments. I would add that until the middle class decides that neither the Republican Party (which includes the Tea Party) nor the Democratic Party can nor will provide the leadership that is necessary to bring this country out of the economic and social quagmire that the Republican Party created and the Democratic Party did not stop for all of the reasons that you and the other commentators have listed, and decides to take a middle of the road approach to government representation and action, we are doomed. It is time to destroy the hold that the current two party system has on this country and produce a true “peoples” party to represent and enact the ideas and ideals that you have so eloquently expressed and upon which this country was founded.

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